Council leader brands complaint over link to tax campaigners as “meaningless”

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Cllr Simon Cook, leader of Canterbury City Council

Canterbury City Council leader Simon Cook has dismissed as “meaningless” a complaint about work he has done for a tax campaign group.

The Conservative is listed as a “research fellow” on the website of the  TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), which campaigns to reduce and simplify taxation and cut waste in public expenditure.

This prompted Lib Dem group leader Michael Dixey to submit an official complaint to the city council’s monitoring officer Steve Boyle on the grounds that Cllr Cook had failed to disclose his links to the TPA in his register of interests.

Cllr Dixey’s complaint to Mr Boyle read: “Simon Cook appears to be employed as a research fellow by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, but it doesn’t seem to be registered on the council’s website.”

The complaint comes against a backdrop of increasing political acrimony as the district nears the 2019 council elections in May when the Conservatives will be defending a 17-seat majority.

Cllr Michael Dixey

Cllr Cook, who has been leader since 2015, denounced the complaint against him as spurious on the basis that he was never paid by the TPA for his services.

“It’s a load of old cobblers, it really is, and I honestly thought better of Michael,” Cllr Cook told the Canterbury Journal today (Monday).

“I’ve never been paid by the TPA and therefore it doesn’t have to be registered as an interest.

“I did some them work for them as I agree with the principle of paying lower tax. It was unpaid work, but which I said would have to stop when I became leader of the council.”

The council currently comprises 28 Conservatives, four members of the Labour Party, four Lib Dems, two independents and a member of the newly created Foundation Party.

The next election takes place on Thursday, May 2.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Both Cllr Cook and Cllr Dixey seem to consider that a declarable “interest” necessarily involves cash. It doesn’t. In the context of local and central government an interest is something that may have an affect on, or be reasonably be perceived to potentially affect, a candidate’s or an elected person’s decision-making when in office. The TPA is a lobbying outfit and its policies are in the public domain. Electors need to be informed about what may influence candidates and elected representatives, over and above their main party affiliations and their duty to their electors. Hence the requirement to declare such interests.

  2. The following words from the Government’s Guidance on Openness & Transparency on Personal Interests 2013 would strongly suggest that Councillor Simon Cook should have registered his affiliation with the Tax Payer’s Alliance. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/openness-and-transparency-on-personal-interests-guidance-for-councillors See the following from the Guidance at pages 4-5

    What must I do about registering my personal interests?
    Under your council’s code of conduct you must act in conformity with the Seven Principles
    of Public Life. One of these is the principle of integrity – that ‘Holders of public office must
    avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try
    inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in

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    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/illustrative-text-for-local-code-of-conduct–2
    order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their
    friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.’4
    .
    Your registration of personal interests should be guided by this duty and you should …

  3. It’s a good thing that Simon Cook collaborates with the TPA. We are paying too many taxes and a lot of our money is squandered both by the Westminster and local governments. More money in taxpayers pockets is good for the economy.

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